Mondro: Archiving the Work of Queer Artists in Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, publishing the creative work of the queer community is a challenge. Writers and artists publish anonymously, and sharing and preserving their work is difficult. Built at a recent Out in Tech event, Mondro is a new website to archive content by queer Bangladeshi people, including art, literature, writing about history and science, and more.

Mondro means ‘deep sound’ in Bengali. We intend to combine all the deepest sounds of our community, which has been tortured and silenced by society,” says Mondro‘s founder, a Bangladeshi LGBTIQ+ activist. “We do not have a physical library or place to archive content, so creations of the queer people of Bangladesh will be preserved on our website.”

Read our first Out in Tech Q&A with Gets My Goat, an initiative in the Dominican Republic.

Out in Tech connects leaders in tech with LGBTIQ+ activists around the world. Ahead of the December 7 hackathon in San Francisco, learn how Mondro offers a much-needed outlet to share the voices of queer artists in Bangladesh.

Illustration courtesy of Mondro

Why did you create Mondro?

We’ve had the idea of archiving queer work in Bangladesh since 2015, but I didn’t take the initiative because of a similar one by a queer writers group. After the tragedy of the Xulhaz Mannan and Mahbub Rabbi Tonoy murders — two prominent LGBTIQ+ activists — we went into a forced hiatus and everything started falling apart. In 2017, we slowly started to work again.

Mondro is very much needed: we didn’t have a single archiving platform or website for stories, articles, and art by non-privileged, rural queer people.

In the beginning, I planned to create a website for queer writers, particularly those who write under pseudonyms. As a writer who also writes under a pen name, I felt an urge to do something for this group. There used to be numerous Facebook pages with a massive queer readership where writers produced fantastic fiction. Some of the pages are active, but not like before. Some page owners deleted or unpublished their pages. Some writers stopped logging in to the Facebook accounts of their fake identities. Some writers’ accounts were deleted because they were unable to verify their identities.

We created Mondro because we strongly felt responsible to save our identities.

I tried my very best to reach these writers to discuss the concept of archiving their work. After two years of procrastination and struggle, in February 2019, I created a volunteer-based queer archive and an awareness-raising platform called Mondro, meant to preserve the work of this community. A few young activists have since joined the team.

Mondro is very much needed: we didn’t have a single archiving platform or website for stories, articles, and art by non-privileged, rural queer people. We created Mondro because we strongly felt responsible to save our identities.

Can you tell us more about the team? Who will publish on the site?

Mondro has a publishing team of five. Contributors to the site will email their content to us, and we’ll publish it after screening. We created Mondro to give queer Bangladeshi people a platform to flourish, so our priority is to make sure their work is in good hands. We welcome every queer individual of Bangladesh to express themselves.

As an LGBTIQ+ activist in Bangladesh, what are some challenges of maintaining and growing this site?

Being an LGBTIQ+ activist in Bangladesh is a challenge, with obstacles every day. There is no surety of our work and existence. The biggest challenge of maintaining the website is ensuring the security and privacy of our content, our contributors, and our volunteers.

The restriction of freedom of speech is a crucial barrier for us. Homosexuality is illegal in Bangladesh and LGBTIQ+ content is considered unnatural and vulgar. Our government can easily ban our website in Bangladesh at any time.

So far, there’s a mix of poetry, stories, and visual art on the site — what other topics or formats do you hope to publish more of? What kinds of writers do you hope will contribute?

We don’t have any restrictions: any queer Bengali person can publish their work on our website. There are several sections, like literature, gender, sexuality, opinion, health, research, curated collections, art, science, history, and more. We are open to accepting anything created by anyone in the queer Bangladeshi community, and writers don’t have to be professional to contribute. We accept a mix of posts, images, and videos.

What features have been helpful so far?

All the publishing tools help us make our posts more articulate and organized. We’ve created more than 300 posts so far, and has allowed us to do this work very swiftly.

The Mondro team and I are thankful to the Out in Tech Digital Corps, and especially Gary Goldman and, to make our dream project a reality.

Learn more about the events and initiatives of Out in Tech.
Explore Out in Tech

December 5, 2019Culture, Diversity, Identity, Inspiration, Interviews, LGBTQ, , , , ,